24 juin 2011

Sans Cannes

"In an increasingly ‘event-driven' cultural environment, film festivals are now regarded as indispensable. Yet are festivals such as Cannes, Sundance and Toronto being sabotaged by their own success? Do they truly serve the needs of cinephiles, as well as the larger public?"
Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)
In 2009, Dekalog 3: On Film Festival, a narcissist bashing on how festivals fail to satisfy critics, only fueled the anti-festival sentiment amongst hipsters. They confuse what the audience needs with the institutional function in film culture. They don't really care about the well being of world cinema, they just whine because they don't have red carpet treatment at the huge machines that major film festivals have become. They don't say that films selected are bad in Cannes, Venice or Berlin (cause their year-end lists draw from their lineup exclusively), they just wish these films premièred in smaller festivals (where critics are treated like royalties). It doesn't matter to their ego-massaging that the films themselves prefer to première at the most prestigious/mediatic venues. 

The book opens on an old André Bazin article : "Du festival considéré comme un ordre" (Cahiers, n°8, June 1955). It's always nice to see another Bazin article translated in English... but I don't understand the pertinence of a 54 years old article to introduce an opus on TODAY's film festivals. Bazin was writing about a totally different generation of festivals, and a Cannes festival that has changed dramatically since.
In 1955, Cannes wasn't running for 10 years yet. In 2009 it was it's 62nd edition! Until 1972, Cannes was another festival altogether, the films were not selected but proposed by each country's government (like today's MPAA Oscar for best foreign film!).
In 1978, Gilles Jacob becomes "délégué général" and inaugurates the parallel section "Un Certain Regard", one of the rare festivals where an actual film critic selects the films in competition.
Since this (obsolete) Bazin article, Cannes only added le Marché du Film (1959), the International Critic's Week (1962), La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (1969), la Leçon de Cinéma (1991), la Cinéfondation (1998), La Résidence (2000), le Village International (2000), la Leçon de Musique (2003), la Leçon d'Acteur (2004), Cannes Classics (2004),  Producer's network (2004), Short Films Corner (2004), L'Atelier (2005)...
The palace Bazin talks about was demolished in 1988 and replaced earlier by the "bunker" in 1983.
If there is anything in this article that still has meaning today it would be vague generalities about "festival atmosphere and postures". It's not Bazin's fault, he couldn't write about 2009 Cannes in 1955... it's the fault of this disingenuous editor (and Emilie Bickerton who translated it) for thinking that he could build a demolition job of today's festivals based on what a critic wrote about it half a century in the past! Was this a book about self-deluded nostalgia or about the future of the festival circuit?

Festivals developed and expanded since their creation? You bet they did. Venice (1932), Cannes (1946), Berlinale (1951)... have been around long enough to garner attention, reputation, exposition, following. Obviously the more recent festivals : Seattle (1974), Vancouver (1982), Valdivia (1993), BAFICI (1999), Jeonju (2000)... are smaller, fresher, less cumbersome, less overwhelmed by media coverage, more local, more critics-friendly, more audience-friendly... precisely because they are NOT major festivals (with the responsibility and the power of such international organisations).

  • Less films (more attention to the happy few) = more rejected filmmakers disappointed 
  • Less professionals (more fun for the happy few who attend) = lesser promotion for films
  • More local audience (crowd-friendly) = less international exposition (bad for international distribution)

But the cinema industry requires BIG machines, in proportion with its magnitude on the world market, even the art film sector. You gotta balance what you want for your own comfort as a viewer, with the advantages that you would like films/filmmakers to get from these events! Getting cozy with second-rate critics (who have been refused the top badge) might not be the highest ambition for filmmakers censored at home who need Major Festivals to open a window for them to world distribution. Do you want your favourite festivals to fail (reputation, exposition, business) just for your selfish pleasure of preserving elbow room on the red carpet among your best friends? Or do you wish your favourite films the best success and the best exposition they can get at the best festivals (instead of the ones you run)?

These are the guys who believe Major Festivals (Cannes, Venice, Berlin) aren't relevant anymore:

Richard Porton : Best films 2010 (indieWIRE top10 2010)
  1. CANNES 2010 (Carlos)
  2. BERLIN 2009 (Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl)
  3. BERLIN 2009 (Everyone Else)
  4. CANNES 2010 (Les Herbes Folles)
  5. BERLIN 2009 (Sweetgrass)
  6. CANNES 2010 (Inside Job)
  7. SUNDANCE 2010 (Night Catches Us)
  8. BERLIN 2010 (The Ghost Writer)
  9. 1973 re-release (World on a Wire)
- Editor of Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)
Author of :
- "A Director on the Festival Circuit: An Interview with Atom Egoyan" in Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)
- "The Festival Whirl: The utopian possibilities—and dystopian realities—of the modern film festival" at Moving Image Source (8 Sept 2009)

Adrian Martin : Best films 2010 (Sight and Sound film poll)
  • CANNES 2010 (Copie conforme)
  • CANNES 2010 (Film socialisme)
  • CANNES 2010 (Poetry) 
  • CANNES 2009 (Vincere)
  • CANNES 2010 (Les Herbes Folles)
Author of :
- "Here and Elsewhere" in Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)
- "Out of the comfort zone" panel at the IFFRotterdam (Feb 2011)
- "World Wide Angle" in Filmkrant (April 2011)

Jonathan Rosenbaum : Best films 2010 (Sight and Sound Final Cut 2010)
  • CANNES 2010 (Copie conforme)
  • CANNES 2010 (Film socialisme)
  • VENICE 2010 (The Forgotten Space)
  • NYFF 2010 (The Social Network)
  • CANNES 2010 (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives)
Author of:
- "Some Festivals I've Known:A Few Rambling Recollections" in Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)

James Quandt: Best films 2010 (indieWIRE top10 2010)
  1. CANNES 2010 (The Strange Case of Angelica)
  2. BERLIN 2009 (Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl)
  3. 1973 re-release (World on a Wire)
  4. CANNES 2010 (Carlos)
  5. CANNES 2009 - Certain Regard (Dogtooth)
  6. CANNES 2009 (Vincere)
  7. CANNES 2008 (Our Beloved Month of August)
  8. CANNES 2009 (Le Père de Mes Enfants)
  9. CANNES 2009 (Ne Change Rien)
  10. VENICE 2009 (Lourdes)
- Author of : "The Sandwich Process: Simon Field Talks About Polemics and Poetry at Film Festivals" in Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)

David Sterritt: Best films 2010 (indieWIRE top10 2010)
  1. NYFF 2010 (The Social Network)
  2. VENICE 2009 (Amore)
  3. CANNES 2010 (White Material)
  4. CANNES 2010 (Les Herbes Folles)
  5. VENICE 2009 (Life During Wartime)
  6. CANNES 2008 (Secret Sunshine)
  7. CANNES 2010 (Another Year)
  8. SUNDANCE 2010 (Winter's Bone)
  9. VENICE 2009 (Around a Small Mountain)
  10. TORONTO 2010 (Stone)
- Author of : Film Festivals — Then and Now (Undercurrent, April 2010)

Nick James: Best films 2010 (Sight and Sound film poll)
  • NYFF 2010 (The Social Network)
  • CANNES 2010 (Aurora)
  • CANNES 2010 (Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow)
  • TIFF 2010 (Mistérios de Lisboa)
  • CANNES 2010 (Le quattro volte)
Author of :
- "Whose cinephilia" (Sight and Sound, Nov 2009)
- "Down from the mountain" (Sight and Sound, June 2010)

Robert Koehler
  1. CANNES 2008 (Our Beloved Month of August)
  2. CANNES 2008 (Liverpool)
  3. CANNES 2010 (Carlos)
  4. CANNES 2007 (Secret Sunshine)
  5. CANNES 2009 (Vincere)
  6. NYFF 2010 (The Social Network)
  7. BERLIN 2009 (Sweetgrass)
  8. LOCARNO 2009 (The Anchorage)
  9. CANNES 2009 (Mother)
  10. BERLIN 2009 (Everyone Else)
Author of :
- "Cinephilia and Film Festivals" in Dekalog 3 on Film Festivals (May 2009)

Mark Peranson (cinemascope)
  1. CANNES 2010 (Uncle Boonmee)
  2. CANNES 2010 (The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu)
  3. TIFF 2010 (Mistérios de Lisboa)
  4. CANNES 2010 (Film Socialisme)
  5. LOCARNO 2010 (Winter Vacation)
  6. CANNES 2010 (The Strange Case of Angelica)
  7. CANNES 2010 (I Wish I Knew)
  8. VENICE 2010 (Meek’s Cutoff)
  9. VENICE 2010 (Attenberg)
  10. BERLIN 2010 (The Ghost Writer)
author of :
- "First you get the power, then you get the money: two models of film festivals" in Dekalog3: On Film Festivals, 2009 [he hates "business festivals" such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto and Pusan as you can see!] see: Film Festivals for Dummies
- "Cannes 2009: Stupid, Adjective" By Mark Peranson (cinemascope, #39, June 2009)
- "Cannes 2010: The Year We Made Contact" By Mark Peranson (cinemascope, #43, summer 2010)

Major festivals still première the best films of the year, but, but, but, they suck anyway... Yeah right. Where are the human-scale mini-festivals you cherish on these lists??? Where? If these are the critics who hate major festivals, I wonder how could major festival lovers show their love much more than this.
That's the kind of critical insight we get when film critics publish a book on festival expertise. :(


2 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

"André Bazin's 1955 essay, 'the Festival Viewed as a Religious Order', which starts off this collection (making its first appearance in English) wittily compares the pilgrimage of critics to Cannes to an initiation into a monastic order - film writers come together from all corners of the globe to spend two weeks living a life diametrically opposed to their everyday professional and private exisdtence' and descend upon the Riviera to worship a 'transcended reality': the cinema."
Richard Porton (introduction to Dekalog 3)

HarryTuttle a dit…

"André Bazin’s 1955 essay “The Festival Viewed as a Religious Order” gently lampooned Cannes as a quasi-monastic institution in which pilgrims gather to pay homage to a “transcendent reality”—the cinema. In recent years, as festivals continue to proliferate at an ever accelerating rate, the myth of diehard film buffs traipsing to the cinematic equivalents of Lourdes coexists with the advent of megafestivals—extravaganzas such as this week’s Toronto International Film Festival—that are as much corporate entities as showcases for innovative cinema."
"The Festival Whirl" by Richard Porton (8 Sept 2009; Moving Image Source)